Wilms Tumor Stages

The stage of a cancer describes how far it has spread. Your child’s treatment and prognosis (outlook) depend, to a large extent, on the cancer’s stage. Staging is based on the results of the physical exam and imaging tests (ultrasound, CT scans, etc.), which are described in Tests for Wilms Tumors, as well as on the results of surgery to remove the tumor, if it has been done.

Children’s Oncology Group (COG) staging system

A staging system is a standard way for the cancer care team to sum up the extent of the tumor. In the United States, the Children’s Oncology Group staging system is used most often to describe the extent of spread of Wilms tumors. This system divides Wilms tumors into 5 stages using Roman numerals I through V.

Stage I

The tumor is contained within one kidney and was removed completely by surgery. The tissue layer surrounding the kidney (the renal capsule) was not broken during surgery. The cancer had not grown into blood vessels in or next to the kidney. The tumor was not biopsied before surgery to remove it.

Stage II

The tumor has grown beyond the kidney, either into nearby fatty tissue or into blood vessels in or near the kidney, but it was removed completely by surgery without any apparent cancer left behind. Nearby lymph nodes (bean-sized collections of immune cells) do not contain cancer. The tumor was not biopsied before surgery.

Stage III

This stage refers to Wilms tumors that most likely have not have been removed completely. The cancer remaining after surgery is limited to the abdomen (belly). One or more of the following features may be present:

  • The cancer has spread to lymph nodes in the abdomen or pelvis but not to more distant lymph nodes, such as those inside the chest.
  • The cancer has grown into nearby vital structures so the surgeon could not remove it completely.
  • Deposits of tumor (tumor implants) are found along the inner lining of the abdominal space.
  • Cancer cells are found at the edge of the sample removed by surgery, a sign that some of the cancer still remains after surgery.
  • Cancer cells “spilled” into the abdominal space before or during surgery.
  • The tumor was removed in more than one piece – for example, the tumor was in the kidney and in the nearby adrenal gland, which was removed separately.
  • A biopsy of the tumor was done before it was removed with surgery.

Stage IV

The cancer has spread through the blood to organs away from the kidneys such as the lungs, liver, brain, or bones, or to lymph nodes far away from the kidneys.

Stage V

Tumors are found in both kidneys at the time of diagnosis.

Tumor histology

The other main factor in determining the prognosis and treatment for a Wilms tumor is the tumor’s histology, which is based on how the tumor cells look under a microscope. The histology can be either favorable or anaplastic. These are described in more detail in What Are Wilms Tumors?

To learn more about how the stage and histology of a Wilms tumor might affect prognosis, see Survival Rates for Wilms Tumors.

The American Cancer Society medical and editorial content team
Our team is made up of doctors and master's-prepared nurses with deep knowledge of cancer care as well as journalists, editors, and translators with extensive experience in medical writing.

Chintagumpala M, Muscal JA. Presentation, diagnosis, and staging of Wilms tumor. UpToDate. Accessed at www.uptodate.com/contents/presentation-diagnosis-and-staging-of-wilms-tumor on August 22, 2018.

Fernandez CV, Geller JI, Ehrlich PF, et al. Chapter 29: Renal Tumors. In: Pizzo PA, Poplack DG, eds. Principles and Practice of Pediatric Oncology. 7th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; 2016.

National Cancer Institute. Wilms Tumor and Other Childhood Kidney Tumors Treatment (PDQ®). 2018. Accessed at www.cancer.gov/types/kidney/hp/wilms-treatment-pdq on August 22, 2018.

Last Medical Review: October 17, 2018 Last Revised: October 17, 2018

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